Highlights from the Energy Storage Conference & Exhibition 2018

The fifth edition of the Australian Energy Storage Conference & Exhibition 2018 was held on May 23-24 in Adelaide, the centre of the latest energy storage discussions in Australia.

This year’s conference, with the theme “Storing Energy for Sustainable Future,” explored how energy storage contributes to overall sustainability, both from the commercial and the environmental point of view.

The conferences saw leading industry speakers present their latest projects and technologies in two conference streams over the course of the two days.

The dominant message of the conference was to prepare Australia for the inevitable transition to renewable energy and to do so in the most sustainable way.

This message was confirmed by the South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, in his opening speech.“The level of attendance is a testament to the importance of storage in the energy transition. It is not a choice of whether to increase clean energy, but how to do it. The transition is underway and the transition will continue,” he said.

Keynote speaker, Sanjeev Gupta, chairman of GFG Alliance, went to lengths to describe his alliance’s solutions to the high energy prices in Australia.

“Since we came here, from being one of the lowest energy cost countries in the world, Australia very quickly rose to becoming one of the highest cost of energy countries in the world,” he said.

“At the same time,” he noted, “energy consumption in Australia is expected to grow, just at its own pace, with the evolution of the economy. I am not even talking about new industries like ours and if there are more international investments, in which case the consumption of energy will grow much faster.

“So on the one side the prices are going up, and on the other side consumption is going up. This is not a pretty picture, unless there is a solution applied to this problem,” he said.

He described GFG Alliance’s solutions to the problem as threefold: taking control of their own energy costs, pairing energy generation with load balancing mechanisms, and developing renewable energy resources for the wider society.

He mentioned the contract between electricity retailer SIMEC ZEN Energy ­– in which Gupta is a majority shareholder­ – and the South Australian state government for as an example of their contribution to the wider society.

As per the contract, SIMEC ZEN Energy will supply more than 80 per cent of the Government’s electricity needs in 2018. This will escalate to 100 per cent in 2019 when it will be backed by local renewable energy projects.

Another keynote speaker, Simon Hackett, non-executive director and technology evangelist, Redflow Limited, spoke about the advantages of flow batteries over conventional batteries such as lithium ion and lead-acid.

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Redflow’s ZBM2 Zinc-Bromine flow battery is the first small-scale application of flow batteries, making them ideal for use in residential, telecommunications, commercial and industrial and even grid-scale energy storage.

“Flow batteries aren’t like conventional batteries. They don’t lose their output capacity with ageing. All other types of batteries wear out with time and the more you use them, their capacity diminishes with age. That’s something we are used to and we think that’s a normal thing with a battery. It’s a normal thing for a conventional battery. But it’s different with flow batteries,” Hackett said.

“Flow batteries can also be completely charged and completely discharged. They have no concept of reserved capacity. They also don’t suffer from what is called as thermal runaway. In lithium batteries, one of the consequences of their high energy storage capacity is that capacity will also govern the thermal runaway.

“Another advantage is recyclability. One of the best things about flow batteries is that they are highly recyclable devices unlike the conventional batteries,” he said.

While describing Tesla’s big lithium battery near Jamestown in South Australia as a successful application of energy storage regulating the energy grid, he said the battery was solving a problem that would not exist in the future, when Australia moves away from coal-fired electricity generators.

Other hot topics of the conference were the 150 megawatt Aurora Solar Thermal project, being developed by SolarReserve in Port Augusta in South Australia.

Dr Kevin Moriarty, executive chairman of 1414 Degrees discussed the future of low-cost grid scale storage. 1414 Degree’s ground breaking thermal energy storage system (TESS) is highly efficient, clean, scalable and sustainable. The technology stores energy generated from electricity or gas and supplies both heat and electricity in the proportions required by consumers.

Phillip Crotty, sales manager - Australia and New Zealand at Victron Energy.
Phillip Crotty, sales manager – Australia and New Zealand at Victron Energy.

Energy system specialist Victron Energy unveiled its latest battery inverter-charger, the MultiPlus-II, at the exhibition.

The MultiPlus-II features a stylish steel enclosure, the largest internal electronics redesign in more than a decade and a lower production cost, which makes the product much more competitive, especially in large-scale energy projects.

The MultiPlus-II is a 48-volt inverter-charger that readily connects with a wide range of energy storage systems, from lead-acid and lithium-based batteries to zinc-bromine flow batteries. The unit is easier to install than earlier models with AC connections accessible via a single plate on its base. The 18kg MultiPlus-II draws just 11 watts of standby power, less than half that used by the model it supersedes.